There are around 111,000 engineers in the United States, and approximately 2,800 commercial divers, of which only some are engineers. That means less than one percent of all engineers are engineer divers. Today, we dive right in with Jeff Lynes, EIT, to learn about his career as a Project Engineer Diver.
Jeff and his wife have lived in Kentucky since 2006 and have four children. Jeff has previous experience in Army Aviation, Aerospace manufacturing, and farming. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geography with a minor in Systems Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy in 1999 and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of North Dakota in 2020. Jeff has been with Marine Solutions since 2019 and added the title of “Commercial Diver” to his resume in 2021.
What does an Engineer Diver do?
“An Engineer Diver conducts underwater inspections of waterfront infrastructure, evaluates and reports conditions of waterfront structures and designs repairs for existing structures or designs plans and specifications for new waterfront structure construction. Various inspections include scheduled inspections to evaluate the condition of structures during their life cycle, emergency inspections following significant events such as storms or physical impacts to structures, and construction related operations such as quality assurance.”
What principles of engineering does an Engineer Diver employ?
“An Engineer Diver is responsible for creating safe, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure by utilizing their knowledge and skills for accurate evaluation and communicating findings and recommendations to the client or owner. An Engineer Diver must be responsive to client needs, anticipate current and future needs, and keep an open mind for developing multiple courses of action whether for inspection, design, or construction.”
How do you become an Engineer Diver?
“For the engineering side, the first step is to earn a Bachelor's degree in engineering from an EAC/ABET accredited program. The Bachelor's degree program gives you a foundation of knowledge and understanding that you will apply daily in your work. Next the engineer completes the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination and applies for Engineer in Training (EIT) status through their respective state board. After four years of working directly under a licensed professional engineer (PE), the engineer completes the Professional Engineering Examination and applies for Professional Engineer licensure through the state board.
For the diving side, one must attend an Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI) - approved school to become a certified entry-level diver/tender. The certification will allow you to begin diving commercially as both an engineer, and a diver. A note here is that engineer divers usually start commercial diving either before or just after earning their bachelor's degree, although some begin diving later.”
Why would an engineer want to become a diver?
“If your engineering work is related to structures in the water, becoming a diver enhances your understanding of field conditions so that you can more accurately evaluate field conditions and create better designs. Becoming a commercial diver expands engineering opportunities for career paths and exposes the engineer to a wider variety of work in the field.”
What was the most difficult part of adding Diver to your resume?
“Taking the time for dive school. I have a wife and children so being apart from them during the months of dive school was difficult.”
What kind of job opportunities are available to Engineer Divers? Is there a high demand for them?
“Most underwater structure inspections are led by an engineer diver. Inland, there are typically bridges, culverts, dams, barge mooring cells, and docks to inspect. In coastal areas and offshore there are also many pipelines and various structures that need inspection. Engineer diving is a niche job market and is usually handled by firms engaged in marine engineering.”
What qualities should an Engineer Diver possess?
“An engineer diver should be motivated to do quality work, be physically fit, be willing to work in a variety of environments, take care of the people they work with, able to listen to others' ideas, and communicate their own ideas well.”
What is your favorite part about your career?
“Having a mixture of design work and diving work is great. I personally love being outside, and inspection diving is very satisfying, even in challenging conditions.”
What is your least favorite part about your job?
“The volume of report writing is my least favorite part. Every inspection requires a report, with many details to be accurately included along with recommendations. However, the report writing is a very necessary part of any engineering work.”
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become an Engineer Diver?
“Make a plan and start executing it as soon as you can. Even if it's only one small step now, taking action brings you one step closer to your goal. You can do it!”